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Kashmir group's plea

By Hasan Suroor

LONDON, JAN. 18. The United Kingdom-based International Kashmir Alliance (IKA) has welcomed the thaw in India-Pakistan relations but says that there can be no lasting settlement of the Kashmir issue unless it has the backing of the Kashmiris on both sides of the border.

"We do not subscribe to the view that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between the Governments of India and Pakistan and previous dialogues have failed precisely because the Kashmiris were excluded," said the IKA spokesman, Shabir Choudhry.

He said two separate IKA delegations would visit India and Pakistan next month to put across its viewpoint.

At a press conference here, the IKA chairman, Syed Nazir Gilani, criticised the two countries for "ignoring the welfare and the interests of the people of Jammu and Kashmir" and expressed surprise that there was no reference to the people of Kashmir in the joint statement issued in Islamabad recently.

Mr. Gilani said that while the IKA "congratulated" the leadership in India and Pakistan on their efforts to resume the peace process, it "dissociated" itself from the "stated position in the joint statement in reference to the people of Jammu and Kashmir".

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